Booming Interest in End of the World Material
A bat drops a fruit, a pig eats the fruit, a human eats the pig, and you have a global viral outbreak. It is the plot of the 2011 film Steven Soderbergh, Contagion.
Interest Search, an index of how many times Google has been searched for a term as a proportion of all searches, from India, the movie increased from 11 in the second week of March to 54 last week. Everyone seems to be looking at him.
And reading Dean Koontz's 1981 thriller 'The Eyes of Darkness', now marketed as an exciting suspense thriller that predicted global danger, it is about a Chinese scientist transporting a biological weapon, 'Wuhan-400', to U.S. Search interest in the Indian book went from 28 to 85 in one month.
Doomsday narratives have been in vogue in India with people locked inside their homes.
People in India share links to Edgar Allan Poe's The Red Masque of Death, recommends the HBO series Chernobyl, and makes (what had been a dark) Spanish film, The Platform, trending at number 7 on Netflix .
Why this immersion in stories and movies from the end of the world? “The simple answer is that we use media content for social learning, which is how to respond to unfamiliar situations by seeing how others respond, even if they are fictional characters. Seeing and reading apocalyptic end of the world stories helps us learn a new script for how to behave in these unprecedented and uncertain times, Dr. Paul Marsden, a consumer psychologist at London University of the Arts told TOI.
What this essentially means is that in times of crisis, people don't want to go offline, they want to know more. There was an increase in search interest for coronaviruses in India in the week between January 26 and February 1 of this year. This was the week that India's first Covid-19 case was reported on January 30.
After a slight decline, it rose again in the second week of March, when the numbers began to rise. It's been going up ever since. As a point of comparison, the search index is a relative measure, it has gone from 8 in the last week of January to 62 at the moment. People just want to understand what is happening. With understanding comes the ability to control, or at least manage, what seems like a disorder.
And that also applies to cultural consumption. In a way, it's about facing fears by watching them play in a setting that we can distance ourselves from.
In a 2019 article on how contagion works like a trope in movies, Dr. Jeffrey S. Sartin, an infectious disease specialist in Nebraska, wrote: Our desire to see horror as it unfolds in fictional settings probably comes from the primary psychological needs to control chaos and overcome fears ... Show that order is broken due to forces (at least initially) beyond human control. The document, published in Research magazine, added that seeing an infectious outbreak on film is essential to understand the acts that made it possible and, therefore, the cultural disease that must be isolated, analyzed and disarmed.
The impulse, then, is recurrent. But is the scale of interest in the cultural projections of the end of the world that we see now unprecedented? I am not a historian, but I believe that what is happening now is unprecedented in modern times: one in five humans on the planet has instructions to stay inside. So I would suggest that its scale may be unique to the Covid-19 crisis ... People learn how to deal with their despair and hopelessness by following the example of what they see in the media, he said.